On Wednesday, the Pentagon announced it will be deploying armored brigade combat teams to Europe starting February for nine-month rotations, where they will perform military exercises in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary. The deployment will reportedly be in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is in Washington, D.C. lobbying for more aid and support for his troubled government. U.S. state media reports that Poroshenko told people at a seminar in D.C. that U.S. sanctions on Russia should remain until Crimea is under Kiev’s control—an event unlikely to ever occur as Crimea has been formally absorbed into the Russian Federation.
How long Poroshenko’s government will remain standing appears to be a much more urgent question. President Poroshenko himself acknowledges how tenuous the situation in Kiev is tweeting,”One may consider the latest governmental crisis a challenge. But I consider it a chance. We have to come out of it more resilient!”
The possibility of that more resilient outcome appears increasingly unlikely. The government in Kiev is in total disarray, as oligarchs, self-proclaimed reformers, and neo-fascist militias pull at the seams. Fights have broken out during cabinet meetings between government officials as leaders of the neo-fascist/neo-Nazi militias openly threaten to violently overthrow the Poroshenko government like they overthrew the previous Yanukovych government.
Poroshenko’s government has already drawn some criticism from Congress when a ban was proposed to prevent a neo-Nazi milita, the Azov Battalion, from training with U.S. forces. The ban was quietly killed after lobbying from the Pentagon, but Washington’s unease with the far-right militias backing the government in Kiev was clear enough.
The optics have only gotten worse for post-coup Ukraine’s liberal backers. A gay rights festival in the city of Lviv in western Ukraine was told by the government they would not be protected which allowed neo-fascists to surround the hotel where gays rights activists were staying and terrorize the activists into canceling the festival. Despite the promise of the Maidan coup (self-branded as the “Revolution of Dignity”), for the LGBT community, the new Ukraine looks a lot like the old one.
And they’re not alone. Few see any real progress being made in Kiev by the Poroshenko government. Even with the war in the east now only simmering, the central government cannot stabilize the economy and root out corruption, one of the main drivers of public discontent.
The reason the government has failed is not surprising. Many government officials and supporters Poroshenko needs to maintain a governing coalition in Kiev are the same corrupt oligarchs looting the country. Like Ukraine itself, President Poroshenko is well pinned on both ends.